Don’t Fall for Bad Lawn Advice

A Bay Weekly reader e-mailed me a flier titled Fall Lawn Maintenance: How to Outdo the Joneses.
    The first recommendation is to cut the lawn as short as possible to avoid problems with snow mold.
    However, snow mold is not a problem in southern Maryland.
    The same day I heard a so called-garden expert recommend scalping the lawn in the fall so that the grass will grow more roots.

Fighting Stink Bugs

Q  Stink bugs are back from garden to home. What is the best way, next to sealing up the house, of collecting and disposing of these critters?
    –Frank Boucher

A:  At this time and stage of growth, there is nothing you can do about stink bugs invading your home. This year I tried the pheromone trap; it did not collect one stink bug after almost two weeks. Unless you spray them with a contact insecticide, there are few choices other than hitting them with a fly swatter.
  Placing a cardboard box with lots of entry holes and pieces of corrugated cardboard inside is a good attractant. Placing a battery operated-light inside a two-liter soda bottle will attract stink bugs. I am currently killing hundreds each day.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected] All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

    Nonsense! Scalping a lawn does not cause the grass to produce more roots. Matter of fact, cutting the grass short prevents the plants from growing roots. Roots provide the blades of grass with water and nutrients; in return, the blades of grass provide the roots with energy to grow more roots.
    A second recommendation — to apply fertilizers high in phosphorus and potassium plus 40 pounds of limestone per 1,000 square feet — is just as wrong.
    Applying high-phosphorus and high-potassium fertilizer is not only damaging to lawns but also a threat to the Bay. Most lawn soils already have excessive amounts of phosphorus and potassium if complete fertilizers are applied year after year. These high levels of phosphorus prevent the roots of grasses from absorbing essential trace elements.
    To overcome the problems associated with high levels of phosphorus, fertilizer companies are now blending lawn fertilizers that contain no phosphorus and reduced levels of potassium.
    Recommendations like these make my blood boil.
    Don’t fall for bad advice.
    Having your soil tested by a reputable laboratory such as A&L Eastern Laboratory ( is the only sure method of determining which fertilizers to use. Testing every three to four years can save you money you might otherwise spend on unnecessary fertilizer.
    Never apply lawn fertilizers in drought. Fertilizers that remain on the surface of the soil lose some of their nitrogen. Always apply lawn fertilizers when the soil is moist and either just before a rain or irrigate well immediately after application.
    Never apply lime at the same time that you apply fertilizers.  Always allow one or two good rains or irrigations between applications.
    My best advice is cut it tall and let it fall until the snow flies.  This practice will not only promote deep rooting of grasses but also save you money by reducing the need for additional fertilizers. By cutting the grass tall, you promote healthy turf that will prevent weeds from becoming established.